Ok. So I’m not *technically* psychic, but I, like many other people with Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD traits, or emotional sensitivity, have an interesting ability to “read” people.

My therapist has clarified that the ability to do this is actually a learned survival skill.

For those who can relate to what I’ll describe in this article, somehow, somewhere along the way, we may have unconsciously realized that if we could look a person over, effectively sum up what they are all about, and interact with them according to what we’ve read, we would be safe.

Our needs would get met.

Let me give you an example that supports this. My father was the type of person who could be loving and kind in one moment, but t if you said the wrong words or did the wrong actions — and you never knew what those were on any given day — he would, without warning, become very angry and sometimes even dangerously violent.

As a child, I subconsciously learned how to behave around my father in ways that would reduce my risk of being hurt by him. In essence, I learned to read him and then interact with and behave accordingly.  I’d choose my words and actions very carefully. I’d be watching his body language…his facial expressions, his tone of voice, the energy that he was giving off.

The “me” around my father behaved very differently from the “me” I was when I was with my teachers at school or even with my mother. I read them, and responded accordingly to them, too.

Evidently, this skill became somehow psychologically wired within me, and it wasn’t until I started DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) that I began to see how this contributed to my lack of a strong sense of identity.

I was so frequently reading and responding to other people in ways I believed would cause them to accept and like me or not hurt me, that I never really developed my own unique sense of me.

I’d see glimpses of myself now and then, but if I thought I had an opinion about something then engaged in a conversation with someone whose acceptance, love, or approval I desired, and their opinion was different from mine, I instantly and willingly dropped any preference I had and quickly adopted their point of view.

The interesting thing is that I didn’t even mind. It was as if making that choice didn’t matter in terms of feeling like a self-sacrifice,  because in my mind it was necessary for my survival.

I truly had no sense of attachment to any idea or belief. I just wanted to be loved, accepted, and to feel safe. Those were my priorities, and they served me well as a child.

But, as an adult, they became a hindrance. Similar to Julia Robert’s character in the movie, “Runaway Bride,” I changed all the time to mirror the needs, likes, and desires of my partners over the years.

There is a scene in that movie where someone asks Julia’s character, “So, how do you like your eggs?”

Her answer changed — every time — to match that of her current boyfriend or fiancé.  There are other telltale signs that her character may be Borderline. Perhaps you can name a few if you’ve seen the movie.

The egg thing really spoke to me, though, at a time when I was struggling with my own sense of self. It was a bit of a “wake up” moment.
Still, for me, it wasn’t until I had a literal identity crisis, exhausted from trying to be everything to everyone that I realized I had no idea who I really was and that I really needed help.

This led to my BPD diagnosis back in 2010, though it was clear to me I’d been suffering from it for quite some time undiagnosed.

I am now in recovery from BPD and no longer meet the criteria for the diagnosis. I have a strong sense of identity and am aware when those mind-reading thoughts pop up and I challenge them.

I fact check and ask people questions. And, I am now the same me from situation to situation and person to person.

It *is* possible. You can learn more about my journey and what helped here.

If you notice that you’re making assumptions about what other people are thinking, feeling, or their intentions, consider whether you could be engaging in the distorted thinking style of mind reading.

While sometimes we’ll be accurate in our “readings” using our intuition, tapping into our past experiences, and being sensitive to such things, past trauma can sometimes cause us to see think we know what other people are thinking, feeling or intending and, because we’re seeing things through a trauma lens, we may be really off-base.

Check the facts and check in with yourself about any self-care you may be needing. 

I hope this post has helped you in some way…whether you have BPD, love or care for someone who does, or if you are treating patients or clients with Borderline Personality Disorder.
Here’s that eggs scene with Julia Roberts:

Thanks for reading.

In kindness,
Debbie DeMarco Bennett, BSc., CLC
DBT-trained Certified Life Coach
For more info on Debbie and her online
DBT-informed courses, visit emotionallysensitive.com

This article was updated 11/6/2018 (originally posted 2/28/12)

16 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Wow this was me to a lesser degree but def me I however minded and became resentful and angry. There is so much I need to learn about myself and BPD. Thank you for being brave and sharing your experience with us.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Wow this was me to a lesser degree but def me I however minded and became resentful and angry. There is so much I need to learn about myself and BPD. Thank you for being brave and sharing your experience with us.

    Reply
  3. Stephanie Rexroth
    Stephanie Rexroth says:

    Great post! I, too, have developed the 6th sense of reading people. My mom was the ecplosive, unpredictable one growing up. The downsides of mine resulted in generalized anxiety + depression (though many other factors contributed to it as well).

    I received a lot of benefit from the book: The Highly Sensative Person. We tend to focus so much on the negatives of our 'gifts' + rightly so because there are sooo many. But, there are positives, too. Namely, we are the advisors of the world.

    Wish you well on your journey to find + embrace you. I'm with ya on that one. Thanks for breaking the silence + sharing your story, too. Be well:)

    Reply
  4. Stephanie Rexroth
    Stephanie Rexroth says:

    Great post! I, too, have developed the 6th sense of reading people. My mom was the ecplosive, unpredictable one growing up. The downsides of mine resulted in generalized anxiety + depression (though many other factors contributed to it as well).

    I received a lot of benefit from the book: The Highly Sensative Person. We tend to focus so much on the negatives of our 'gifts' + rightly so because there are sooo many. But, there are positives, too. Namely, we are the advisors of the world.

    Wish you well on your journey to find + embrace you. I'm with ya on that one. Thanks for breaking the silence + sharing your story, too. Be well:)

    Reply
  5. HealingFromBPD
    HealingFromBPD says:

    Thank you Anonymous and Stephanie.

    Anonymous: It's good that you recognize that your reaction has been resenting and feeling angry – two emotions that I can definitely understand that someone might have. It is my pleasure to share my experience. Thank YOU for taking the time to comment.

    Stephanie: Thank you for the kind words and for sharing some of your own story. Thanks also for the book recommendation and the encouragement. You Be Well, too! 🙂

    Reply
  6. HealingFromBPD
    HealingFromBPD says:

    Thank you Anonymous and Stephanie.

    Anonymous: It's good that you recognize that your reaction has been resenting and feeling angry – two emotions that I can definitely understand that someone might have. It is my pleasure to share my experience. Thank YOU for taking the time to comment.

    Stephanie: Thank you for the kind words and for sharing some of your own story. Thanks also for the book recommendation and the encouragement. You Be Well, too! 🙂

    Reply
  7. Kim
    Kim says:

    I think what resonates with me is that I have so many things that I do like, that maybe I don't like all of them or maybe I just like trying new things. I like rock climbing, but not enough to do it all the time, I like basketball, but not enough to commit to it. I am a little lost like Julia in the movie, I don't make commitments because I don't like being tied down to anything for fear of it going bad and causing me hurt. It's also why I chose social work, because I could go into many different concentrations with my degree, because I'm never sure of what I really want to be stuck with every day.

    Reply
  8. Kim
    Kim says:

    I think what resonates with me is that I have so many things that I do like, that maybe I don't like all of them or maybe I just like trying new things. I like rock climbing, but not enough to do it all the time, I like basketball, but not enough to commit to it. I am a little lost like Julia in the movie, I don't make commitments because I don't like being tied down to anything for fear of it going bad and causing me hurt. It's also why I chose social work, because I could go into many different concentrations with my degree, because I'm never sure of what I really want to be stuck with every day.

    Reply
  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    WOW..This is exactly how I am, in fact, I am just getting out of a 4 year relationship and realizing that I have altered the way I had my eggs!! I Don't even really know what kind I like! It is hard for me to believe that there are others out there who feel like me, Is this real? and will I remember it? I am coming to see how severe my BPD is, I am a chameleon,a peace maker, I get sick when I am in large groups " Crowd Sickness" because I am trying to control and satisfy so many other peoples needs and wants, I can't concentrate because I am so aware of my surroundings, I notice everything, body language gestures, breathing, And I too believe it stemmed from having to be acutely aware of my parents, especially my mothers, mood swings..I can tell when someone is talking about me from across the room, not in a paranoid sense, or if they are around other people or they are somewhere other than home, just by the way their voice sounds..It is a skill but also a curse, oh how I wish to be IGNORANT sometimes…I AM SO GLAD I FOUND YOU ON FB AND HERE. NO one has ever offered me any cognitive therapy such as this,and I am excited to implement it, …for the moment at least this part of me is…if you know what I mean, thank you!

    Reply
  10. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    WOW..This is exactly how I am, in fact, I am just getting out of a 4 year relationship and realizing that I have altered the way I had my eggs!! I Don't even really know what kind I like! It is hard for me to believe that there are others out there who feel like me, Is this real? and will I remember it? I am coming to see how severe my BPD is, I am a chameleon,a peace maker, I get sick when I am in large groups " Crowd Sickness" because I am trying to control and satisfy so many other peoples needs and wants, I can't concentrate because I am so aware of my surroundings, I notice everything, body language gestures, breathing, And I too believe it stemmed from having to be acutely aware of my parents, especially my mothers, mood swings..I can tell when someone is talking about me from across the room, not in a paranoid sense, or if they are around other people or they are somewhere other than home, just by the way their voice sounds..It is a skill but also a curse, oh how I wish to be IGNORANT sometimes…I AM SO GLAD I FOUND YOU ON FB AND HERE. NO one has ever offered me any cognitive therapy such as this,and I am excited to implement it, …for the moment at least this part of me is…if you know what I mean, thank you!

    Reply
  11. Healing From BPD
    Healing From BPD says:

    Thank you wanderingstar65. :)) I am so glad you found your way over here, too. What you're describing is so common amongst those of us with BPD. Please find comfort in knowing that you are not alone, and there IS a way out of hell. I've found my route via DBT. Hugs! ♥

    Reply
  12. Healing From BPD
    Healing From BPD says:

    Thank you wanderingstar65. :)) I am so glad you found your way over here, too. What you're describing is so common amongst those of us with BPD. Please find comfort in knowing that you are not alone, and there IS a way out of hell. I've found my route via DBT. Hugs! ♥

    Reply
  13. Gasoline Rainbow
    Gasoline Rainbow says:

    I just re read this today as you had linked back to it. Amazing. I always have been able to read people, i thought i had some kind of special power no one else had. I am able to for see situations that will happen with close family (because i know these people my predictions usually come true).
    I realise that i have had to read people in order to know who is "safe" and who isn't throughout my life. I had many people in my life that were not normal by any means. I think i've seen so much bad examples of how to behave as a human that if i sense someone is "bad" i walk ten miles in the other direction.
    Thanks Debbie.

    Reply
  14. Gasoline Rainbow
    Gasoline Rainbow says:

    I just re read this today as you had linked back to it. Amazing. I always have been able to read people, i thought i had some kind of special power no one else had. I am able to for see situations that will happen with close family (because i know these people my predictions usually come true).
    I realise that i have had to read people in order to know who is "safe" and who isn't throughout my life. I had many people in my life that were not normal by any means. I think i've seen so much bad examples of how to behave as a human that if i sense someone is "bad" i walk ten miles in the other direction.
    Thanks Debbie.

    Reply
  15. Admin
    Admin says:

    it seems I have always done this my whole life, even know I can see that I do it, but not how to stop it, its like being a different person every day, depending on who is around, or where I am going. like putting on a mask. Trying to hide that scared little girl that is hidden inside

    Reply
  16. Admin
    Admin says:

    it seems I have always done this my whole life, even know I can see that I do it, but not how to stop it, its like being a different person every day, depending on who is around, or where I am going. like putting on a mask. Trying to hide that scared little girl that is hidden inside

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.